WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 6, 2008) -- For half of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Championships, the season has reached the halfway point at Watkins Glen International, for the other half, the season is just beginning.
The SCCA SPEED GT season is still in its adolescence, embarking on Round Four this weekend at Watkins Glen. Backing up his Long Beach win with a runner-up finish at Miller Motorsports Park, 22 year-old Brandon Davis arrives in upstate New York as the SCCA SPEED GT Drivers’ Championship point leader. The recent University of Denver grad is missing commencement ceremonies to race this weekend in the No. 10 ACS/Sun Microsystems Ford Mustang, but it will be worth it if he can extend his lead in the Championship as well as Ford’s lead in the SCCA SPEED GT Manufacturers’ Championship presented by RACER Magazine.
A mere five points behind Davis in the standings is defending Champion Randy Pobst, who made history at The Glen last year, sweeping the GT and both Touring Car races for a record three professional race wins in a single weekend. It marked a turning point in the No. 1 K-PAX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 driver’s 2007 Championship season, so needless to say, he is looking forward to this weekend.
Despite a rough race at the Glen last year, Pobst’s teammate Michael Galati is also a front-runner for a victory on Sunday. In 2007, Galati had a poor start from ninth on the grid and fell well back in the field before battling back to a fifth-place finish. Imagine the possibilities if he were to qualify on the front row in the No. 23 K-PAX Racing Porsche 911 GT3.
The only SCCA SPEED GT driver to stand on the podium at each race thus far is Andy Pilgrim. Polesitter at The Glen last year, Pilgrim also had a poor start to the race, but whereas Galati stalled, Pilgrim jumped, and was forced to serve a stop-and-go penalty. Not what you would expect from “Mr. Consistency.” Pilgrim sliced through the field for a fourth-place finish, so like Galati, a high grid position for the No. 8 Remington Shaving Cadillac CTS-V and good start could be the right recipe for a breakaway win. Better still, a Cadillac win would advance the marque in the Manufacturers’ standings.
Both in their sophomore SCCA SPEED GT seasons, Jeff Courtney and Jason Daskalos currently head the list of Viper pilots in the drivers’ standings. Courtney is fresh of an SCCA SPEED GT personal best of sixth at Miller Motorsports Park in the No. 99 Kenda/TJM/MPI Coin/Badger Tire Dodge Viper, while Daskalos has yet to finish any lower than eighth so far this season in the No. 5 Coyote Gravel Products Dodge Viper.
Of course, it was a Dodge Viper that won the most recent round in Utah. Driving the No. 13 Foametix/Woodhouse Performance Dodge Viper, Tommy Archer returned to the series for his second race of the season to capture the first SCCA SPEED GT win for Woodhouse Performance. Sharing driving duties with Claudio Burtin this year, Archer will return to the cockpit for Watkins Glen, where he finished sixth last year.
Eric Curran led the first 10 laps at Watkins Glen last year before the engine in his No. 30 Whelen Engineering Corvette began to misfire and forced him to retire. Curran isn’t having much better luck so far this season, but as we saw last year, it’s either all or nothing with Curran who scored four wins in 2007 amongst five DNFs. As this is only Round Four, there’s still time for Curran to turn his season around and get Chevrolet into the Manufacturers’ Title battle.
It’s time to get down to business in SCCA SPEED Touring Car, which starts the second half of the 2008 season this weekend with Round Six. The Tri-Point and Tindol Mazda teams will need to put their noses to the grindstone in order to catch the RealTime Acura squad, whose drivers currently occupy the top three spots in the Drivers’ Championship.
Finishing off the podium for the first time this season in Round Five at Lime Rock Park, Kuno Wittmer arrives at Watkins Glen with a six-point lead over Pierre Kleinubing. The Canadian has already claimed two wins in what appears to be his breakout season. Wittmer’s last visit to Watkins Glen began with a disappointing DNF due to a broken axle, but ended on a high-note following a fourth-place finish in the second part of the doubleheader.
Kleinubing’s 2007 Watkins Glen doubleheader was also a mixed bag, starting off with a runner-up finish in race one, but ending race two in the Turn 11 tire wall after a run in with Jeff Altenburg. Save for an uncharacteristic off-course excursion in the No. 43 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX at VIRginia International Raceway, Kleinubing’s season has been flawless thus far.
Team owner Peter Cunningham in the No. 42 Acura/RealTime/Eibach/Red Line Acura TSX takes up the third spot in the Drivers’ Championship, but is even happier to see Acura 11 points ahead of Mazda in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
After a rocky start to the season, Chip Herr is settling into his new ride at Tindol Motorsports. Herr collected a third-place finish and a win at the Lime Rock Park in the No. 97 Mazdaspeed/Tindol MAZDA6, propelling him to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship. After trading switching from the all-wheel drive Audi A4 to the MAZDA6 in the offseason, Herr will have a whole view of the undulating Watkins Glen course this year in front-wheel drive.
The only other Mazda driver to get the best of the RealTime Acuras this year is rookie Jason Saini who claimed his first-career pole and win at Miller Motorsports Park in the No. 74 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6. He had a difficult time capitalizing on that momentum at Lime Rock Park however, finishing sixth and 13th, and ending the weekend seventh in the point standings. With no previous experience at Watkins Glen, Saini will be looking to teammate Charles Espenlaub for advice. The No. 73 Mazdaspeed/Stoptech/Racinghart MAZDA6 driver had his best results of 2007 here, finishing third in race one and fifth in race two.
Putting in steady results, but sill hunting for that elusive win, Seth Thomas is the highest BMW pilot in the point standings. Thomas finished a career-high second at VIR, but was unable to reach the podium in the three following races. Although Thomas qualified the No. 38 BimmerWorld BMW 325i in the top 10 for both Watkins Glen races last year, the results were disappointing to say the least (22nd and 18th).
After Friday’s practice sessions, qualifying for Round Four of the SCCA SPEED GT Championship and Round Six of the SCCA SPEED Touring Car Championship is scheduled for Saturday morning. The SCCA SPEED Touring Car race will go green at 8:35 a.m. (EDT) on Sunday, followed shortly thereafter by the SCCA SPEED GT race at 10:50 a.m. (EDT).
Live timing and scoring for all sessions is available at www.world-challenge.com. Both races will air on SPEED, Wednesday, June 18, at noon and 1:00 p.m. (EDT).